Best Stretches to Relieve Tight Shoulders

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Best Stretches to Relieve Tight Shoulders


Written by fitness expert Chris. Last updated:

Tightness in the shoulders is often an underlying cause of a myriad of problems including neck pain, mid-upper back pain, and tension headaches. Individuals who spend a significant amount of time at a desk or working at a computer are especially susceptible to carrying tension in the shoulders. Below are five of the best stretches to relieve tight shoulders.

Cross Arm Stretch

The cross arm stretch is an excellent way to stretch the posterior deltoids (the back of the shoulders). Begin by bringing the arm to be stretched across the body, keeping the elbow straight. Using the opposite hand, grab the front of the elbow and pull across the body until a gentle stretch is felt. Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat three times.

Pec Stretch

The pec stretch (short for pectorals) focuses on the muscles of the chest. These muscles become tight from sitting with poor posture and rounded shoulders, placing the pectoral muscles in a shortened position contributing to back pain. To perform this stretch, stand in a doorway with arms placed at a 90 degree angle at the elbow. With forearms on the door facing, lean forward until a gentle stretch is felt through the chest. Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat three times.

Triceps Stretch

To stretch the back of the arms, begin by lifting the first arm over head and bending at the elbow so fingers are pointed down the back. Using the opposite hand, gently pull the elbow back until a gentle stretch is felt. Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat three times.

Anterior and Lateral Neck Stretches

Stretching both the anterior and the lateral neck muscles can alleviate tension that feels as if it runs from the neck to the shoulders. Begin by tilting the chin slightly back and bringing the ear towards the shoulder. Do not shrug shoulders in order to “make them touch.” Hold for 15-20 seconds. To stretch the lateral neck muscles turn head to look over opposite shoulder and drop chin towards the shoulder. Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat these two stretches three times on each side.

Overhead Wall Stretch

Standing 6-8 inches from the wall, place hands overhead on the wall, pinky side of hands pressed firmly against the wall. Gradually allow yourself to sink down keeping your abdominal muscles engaged and hold for 15-20 seconds. Repeat three times for a good stretch not only for the shoulder but to help alleviate back pain as well.

It is not necessary to carry stress across the shoulders any more! By being proactive with shoulder stretches, one can expect to see an decrease in neck and back pain as well.

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